Sponsored Links

Cloudberry Kingdom's journey to Wii U: Not as hard as it looks

Jessica Conditt
Jessica Conditt|@JessConditt|October 3, 2012 4:30 PM
Cloudberry Kingdom is a co-op platformer with an infinite supply of randomly generated stages designed by an AI system sent straight from the Insanely Difficult level of Hell. It features swirling death balls, disappearing platforms, strings of fire and jabbing spikes, all of which our hero must navigate with the utmost precision if he hopes to survive (and save the princess or something).

Cloudberry Kingdom offers five difficulty settings – Easy, Unpleasant, Abusive, Hardcore and Masochistic – and it's coming to PC, Mac, XBLA, PS3, Vita and finally, Wii U.

If indie developer Pwnee Studios had to describe working with Nintendo to become a Wii U launch title, it'd put the process solidly in the "Easy" category. An outsider, however, may see it as somewhere around "Hardcore."

Cloudberry Kingdom's journey to Wii U Not as hard as it looksDirector of Business Development Michael Suswal used brute force to break down the barriers of Nintendo contacts, disregarding the suggested Wii U submission process entirely, because that's how he rolls.

"It is a personal mantra of mine to never follow the system," Suswal says. "So while I learned what the preferred submission process was, I decided to take a more punishing, masochistic route and chopped my way through the maze of transfers and voicemails. To be fair, Nintendo was one of the easiest companies to navigate, though it probably would have been easier to just fill out the form."

Perhaps the Pwnee Studios team has a different definition of the word "easy."

In conjunction with Suswal's relentless prodding, in February Pwnee released a trailer titled "We Like it Hard." It was an attempt to garner attention from fans and prove to the various distributors that punishing platforming was what the people wanted. The video broke 100,000 views just as Suswal got through to the right people at Nintendo.

Once he reached the right contacts, Nintendo turned out to be an efficient company to work with and "really helpful." Pwnee pitched Cloudberry Kingdom to Nintendo and soon after was assigned a biz dev person, who reviewed the game to make sure it was a right fit for the company.

Cloudberry Kingdom's journey to Wii U Not as hard as it looks
Spoilers: It was. Cloudberry Kingdom was then fast-tracked to become a Wii U launch title and Pwnee was placed on a priority list to receive a Wii U dev kit.

With all of its contacts secured, Pwnee still needed one thing to complete Cloudberry Kingdom: money. It turned to Kickstarter.

Pwnee asked for $20,000 to complete the beast of Cloudberry Kingdom's AI, finish the art and streamline the final touches. As media attention pushed people to the Kickstarter, a few fans asked for Wii U rather than Steam versions of Cloudberry Kingdom as a reward for backing the project. Pwnee asked Nintendo if this would be possible, and its contacts answered with a resounding, "Yes."

Adding Wii U versions as a reward drummed up more media attention from "hundreds of Nintendo blogs and sites," Suswal says. "In short, Nintendo and its fans have been some of our biggest supporters."

The Kickstarter closed with $23,582 and made possible a relationship with animation company Tigar Hare Studios, which overhauled the graphics and created cinematic cutscenes for the story. This studio "studmance" led to some celebrity connections, and Pwnee landed Kevin Sorbo (Hercules), his wife Sam Sorbo (Chicago Hope) and Martin Olson (Adventure Time) as the voice actors of Bob, the princess and King Kobbler, respectively.

"Nintendo has been very proactive at making sure we had everything we need, most times reaching out to me without my requesting it to update me on news and developments," Suswal says. Pwnee was given free passes to the Nintendo E3 press announcement, where the team established even more contacts.

Cloudberry Kingdom is scheduled for a launch on Wii U in November, with releases planned on Steam for PC and Mac, XBLA, PS3 and Vita, all within six months of each other.

From here on out, it could be smooth sailing for Pwnee. Of course, that most likely means "Unpleasant" sailing, in standard terms.
Cloudberry Kingdom's journey to Wii U: Not as hard as it looks